Removing the mask mandate for children under five is premature



Andriana Kourkoumelis

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that starting Apr. 4 preschoolers cannot wear masks in any public schools or daycare centers.

This new update on the mask mandate can be problematic, despite COVID-19 cases seemingly declining in New York City.

Adams’ reasoning of “We want to see our babies’ faces” is not enough to deem revoking the mask mandate completely safe for young, unvaccinated children.

Adams has been diligent in returning the city to normalcy after a period where mask mandates and COVID-19 precautions were strictly in place.

With this focus as mayor, he has been taking many small steps to help the city recover from the effects of the pandemic, even if some measures are premature.

His announcement regarding the mask mandate modification for children under 5-years-old in preschool and daycare centers occurred at a news conference at City Hall on March 22.

Children are known to be one of the most fragile groups when it comes to contracting illness, especially at a very young age.

Most of this group is unvaccinated and at high risk of just one classmate getting sick — fully removing all precautions is a risky move to make.

With the omicron subvariant still present, it is irresponsible to put aside the health and safety of a very sensitive age group.

Kids targeted by Adams’ policy tend to lack an understanding of social distancing and health precautions.

It is safe to assume that these children are not all separated, and are actively playing, touching and talking closely with each other.

This furthers the risk of a COVID-19 surge; the virus then follows a chain reaction that could spread to the child’s family at home.

Adams is fully aware of this possibility and has stated in addition to his announcement that if removing the mandate is too much of a risk, then he will rethink his proposition.

This clarification is necessary because it demonstrates that Adams will still take science and COVID-19 updates into account.

Though, this does not address the issue of younger children remaining ineligible for the vaccine.

Parents have already responded, with most comments disagreeing with Adams.

Though some parents agree that it is time to unmask their children in their learning environment, a larger reaction came from worried parents who are concerned about their children’s well-being.

“Let’s be respectful of whatever choice families make. Let’s be kind to each other when it comes to how we manage our own risk. You don’t know what life circumstances someone might be accounting for in their choice to mask,” New York City Commissioner of Health Dr. Ashwin Vasan tweeted.

While hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases are currently at a record low, it is no secret that the last two years have been unpredictable in terms of the events or infection rates related to the pandemic.

There have been ups and downs, more severe and less severe waves of the virus.

As a society, especially in New York City, it is encouraged to be fully vaccinated to combat this ever changing, unknowing infection.

Children under five are excluded from this.

They have no medical protection against any strain of COVID-19 besides mask mandates.

To add, if they are partaking in schooling in person, it is important, they have hands-on, interactive learning experiences.

The mask will create a barrier to let kids have this collaborative environment while being somewhat protected, not only from COVID-19 but from other illnesses as well.

Even with the current factor of low risk and the idea that there needs to be a return to normalcy, extending the time in which the mask mandate is implemented for children under five will be a better precautionary measure to take going forward in navigating pandemic recovery.